Thursday, 31 May 2012

Why Cake is Important to Me

I've had many a person say to me (about cakes) 'Why go to all that effort for something that is just going to get eaten'. And the question often stumps me as it's true, cakes don't last for long before they are eaten or if you don't eat it then they go stale. So why spend hours on something that barely lasts a day?

Until now my answers have been mundane 'because they are pretty' or 'because I enjoy making them' because the truth is that you can get a pretty enough cake from a supermarket for under £10 that requires no effort other than a few candles.

Today F reminded me and showed me WHY I wanted to bake her birthday cake myself. I spent all afternoon and evening working on a cake that F had chosen. A few months ago she looked at images of princess cakes online with me and she picked one. She then decided on some changes she wanted to make to the cake - and I did the changes crudely on a paint document so that I could remember what she wanted. I had nearly finished this afternoon and my Hubby asked F what she thought of the cake I was making for her. She looked at it thoughtfully, looking from side to side taking it all in. She was very quiet and I wondered if she was going to point out something that wasn't quite right or something she wanted added.

She turned to me with a smile on her face and said simply

'It's beautiful Mummy'

THAT made all the effort worthwhile. That little smile, those simple words meant everything to me. I don't even care what other people think of the cake now. F thinks it's beautiful. That's why I bake cakes. They make people happy.

P.S You will get to see cake pictures once we've had the party on Saturday!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Cola Syrup recipe

A friend of mine is a 'Jamie at Home' representative (for Jamie Oliver products sold through parties at home) and so I've been to a few of these parties. Every party involves watching a dvd where Jamie goes through a 'recipe of the month' this month there were three drinks recipes - one of them for cola syrup!

So I decided it HAD to be made. I do like cola (or Pepsi really) and it looked like fun to make so I gave it a go. Here is the recipe:

Zest and juice of 10 oranges
Zest and juice of 8 lemons
2 sticks of cinnamon
4 or 5 cloves
3 or 4 bay leaves
1 level teaspoon of five spice
2 vanilla pods (I just used the concentrated extract that I bake with)
600g soft dark brown sugar
1.2 litres of water

Add it all to a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 hour 20 minutes – should reduce by ¾ and be quite thick. Then you just put it through a sieve and keep the liquid.

It should make about 1 litre of syrup. Then 25ml of syrup can be diluted with fizzy water to make an average glass size of cola!

So... the taste? Well, it's not the same as the branded stuff but it tastes good. It tastes fresher and you can taste some of the different elements that go into it. It make a decent amount of syrup and the syrup can be used for other things - baking cola cupcakes or glazing meat in the oven! 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

No Sew Tutu Tutorial

Not so easy to say that!

You will need:

Headbands (like hair bands but the size to fit your head!) - if you can't get these get some wide elastic, make it 2 inches shorter than the waist of the kid it's for. But you'll have to sew it together! Tesco had 6 of the headbands for £4.

Tulle - on a roll or off of the bolt, whatever! - I bought 1m each of 3 colours - that's enough for 3 tutus.

Your leg

Cut the tulle into lengths that are TWICE the length you from the waist to the knee of the kiddy - one of these was 12 inches (so cut into 24s) and the other was 8 inches (so cut into 16s). And make the strips about 4 inches wide. If you've bought it on a 6 inch roll then 6 inches wide is perfect too.

Grab a band and put it round your leg.
Grab a piece of tulle and fold it in half, pass the loop end under the band

Pass the two loose ends over the top of the band and through the loop

Then carefully tighten this.

Repeat this until you've filled the band, you can add more if you wish or less or some ribbon too, whatever colours you fancy, the world is your tutu oyster!

Things to note:

  • My pieces are not an exact size nor cut straight. It doesn't matter!
  • With time the tulle calms down a bit and is a little less poofy
  • It takes maybe 15 minutes to make one
  • I am not the first person to make these, the tutorial is how I've worked out to do it to make it as easy as possible. I'm sure others have found the same.
  • Do what you like with the tutorial, make your millions if you wish! It'd be fab if you linked back here though!

P.S No action photos as these are off to a very special surprise home!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Puff Pasty Tart - easy peasy

This recipe is a bit of a cheat. And not healthy. Tastes good though!

You need:

1 sheet/block of puff pastry rolled out
Tomato puree/passata/ something like that

Spread the tomato-y stuff on the pastry but leave about 2cm round the edge (this will puff up bigger and make the tart shape).
Sprinkle on the cheese (I used mozerella and cheddar) and ham

Bake (at about 220 degrees celsius) for 15-20 min. Eat. Enjoy

My mozerella was sloppy and it made the base a bit soggy. Still edible though. Might have some beans on toast later too. I'm having a hungry day (week, month, year....)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Scone Recipe

Today I felt an urge to eat scones with cream and jam. So I made some scones. I only had squirty aerosol cream but it did the job!

I used Mary Berry's scone recipe. And it worked really well! Made a decent amount with a good rise and they are really yummy. I might try cheese ones next time (not with the cream and jam though!). Scones make me feel  very English, I don't know why. I have to have them with a cup of tea too. And a strawberry or too. Mmmm!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Ahhh the sunshine really does make things better. Today I felt GOOD. Awake, happy, busy. The girls enjoyed soft play, we then came back home and I scrubbed the car inside and out. Next time I will pay the people who do it at the supermarket as £8 now seems like a bargain. I got soaked and I ache but my car is shiny!

The chickens were out all afternoon chirping around, the girls flitted between inside and out too. I love it when they get fresh air. We then had an easy pizza dinner and went to get a couple more fish for Hubby's fish tank.

Yesterday Hubby bought me this...

A basil plant! It was very thoughtful because on holiday I ate this:

Basil and mozerella focaccia. YUM. I really loved the taste of the basil and decided I should use it more often and my Hubby remembered and picked me a plant up when he was at the shop. It smells amazing. I need some mozerella now to go with it!

Monday, 21 May 2012

I am tired.

I think I've been burning my candle at too many ends. We didn't get back from a music concert until 2.30am and we spent a lot of time in the car and a lot of time walking and standing (and dancing and singing!). And before that I was busy all day and evening and before that was the holiday!

I managed to put away 6 baskets of washing this morning. Mostly from the holiday. It took me a fair while and all I've managed after that was to clean the bathroom and wipe the kitchen. The house is still full of clutter and things are still in the wrong places but I don't have the energy to do it. I've not washed up from dinner yet and that is something I normally do straight away.

My method of coping for tomorrow is to take both girls to the soft play area with a friend. They'll be entertained (and hopefully worn out) and I can sit with a hot chocolate and watch them!

Hopefully I'll be back with a more interesting post soon!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

I'm baacccccckkkkk!!!

Hello! Have you missed me!?!

We had a lovely time away. We did lots of lovely things and completely enjoyed ourselves. I've taken lots of photos but it might be a few days before I get a chance to go through them and sort out the good ones from the big blurs!

I've got a cupcake order of 48 cucpakes to be decorated with 'grass' and butterflies, ladybirds and bees that I need to complete tonight so I'm going to be busy! On top of that I'm going to see Westlife in concert tomorrow - several hours drive away so I'm out all day tomorrow AND I've a ton of washing to fight my way through and  the house is in a bit of a mess. Gulp.

Yesterday when I ran into a shop to grab some essentials (milk, bread, cheese!) a magazine caught my eye. Now I don't normally buy magazines because they are so expensive and you can normally buy a proper book for the same amount. I picked up 'Simply Homemade' and decided I WANTED IT.

And it came with these:

Lots and lots of pretty paper (lots of different patterns and colours) and some pretty die cuts! So I told myself that I was buying the pretty papers and getting the magazine for free. It was £3.99. Not tooooooo bad. I've not read the magazine yet, I'm saving it for tomorrow's journey. I hope it is as pretty inside as the cover suggests!!!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Hands Free Mama

Do you always know where your phone is? Do you get notifications for everything and often find yourself 'just quickly' checking something on a phone or a laptop? I do. I'm ashamed to say it but I do.

I came across as website the other evening called Hands Free Mama and it made me cry.

This part especially got to me (extract taken from Hands Free Mama)

How to Miss a Childhood
*Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day. Allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child midsentence; always let the caller take priority.
*Carry your phone around so much that when you happen to leave it in one room your child will come running with it proudly in hand—treating it more like a much needed breathing apparatus than a communication device.
*Decide the app you’re playing is more important than throwing the ball in the yard with your kids. Even better, yell at them to leave you alone while you play your game.
*Take your children to the zoo and spend so much time on your phone that your child looks longingly at the mother who is engaged with her children and wishes she was with her instead.
*While you wait for the server to bring your food or the movie to start, get out your phone and stare at it despite the fact your child sits inches away longing for you talk to him.
*Go to your child’s sporting event and look up periodically from your phone thinking she won’t notice that you are not fully focused on her game.
*Check your phone first thing in the morning … even before you kiss, hug, or greet the people in your family.
*Neglect daily rituals like tucking your child into bed or nightly dinner conversation because you are too busy with your online activity.
*Don’t look up from your phone when your child speaks to you or just reply with an “uh huh” so she thinks you were listening.
*Lose your temper with your child when he “bothers” you while you are interacting with your hand-held electronic device.
*Give an exasperated sigh when your child asks you to push her on the swing. Can’t she see you’re busy?
*Use drive time to call other people regardless of the fact you could be talking to your kids about their day—or about their worries, their fears, or their dreams.
*Read email and text messages at stoplights. Then tell yourself that when your kids are old enough to drive they won’t remember you did this all the time.
*Have the phone to your ear when she gets in or out of the car. Convince yourself a loving hello or goodbye is highly overrated.
Follow this recipe and you will have:
• Missed opportunities for human connection
• Fewer chances to create beautiful memories
• Lack of connection to the people most precious to you
• Inability to really know your children and them unable to know you
• Overwhelming regret
If you find this recipe difficult to read—if you find that you have tears in your eyes, I thank you, and your child thanks you.

Does that hit a chord with you? I think that living in such a technically-minded world can be hard because we are surrounded by distractions. I also feel like the internet and my phone are my link to the world, they make me feel less alone when days feel very samey.

But that doesn't excuse the fact that I am doing this to my children. Since reading that blog I have decided to change my ways.

My first step? I have set my mobile so that it no longer beeps or flashes at emails or facebook notifications. This is stopping me noticing a beep or light and picking up my phone and then getting distracted by it. I'm limiting the time I have my laptop open and am trying to do it ONLY when the girls are asleep or out somewhere or if I have to use it for a proper purpose (grocery shopping, printing something for the girls etc). It's hard. I am also allowing myself 10 minutes a morning of laptop time, for that 10 minutes when I'm not really awake, when I've got my cup of tea and the girls are watching a little bit of tv.

I get the irony of blogging about being hands free but I only tend to blog when the children are asleep :D

I am currently on holiday - I have set this post to appear magically while I'm away (let's hope it does). On holiday I'll have no laptop (only my mobile) and no wi-fi. So hopefully that will help me adapt. I will be using facebook as the family like to see pictures of the girls but I'll try and only use it when the girls really don't need me. They are my life. They deserve my full attention. They will only be little for a little while and I intend to make the most of it from now on.

I'm adding the logo to my blog. If you want to add it too then you can find it - and the code for it on the Hands Free Mama blog.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Animal Talk

These are my baby chicks...

Not so little anymore! Nor so fluffy. We think Meredith is a bloke.

And just a pretty picture of my beautiful Margaret as Martha was being un-coperative and only showing me her rear. I'm considering getting an honesty box and selling eggs on the drive as we're getting 2 a day from the hens again and I guess at some point when the chicks are bigger they will lay too. And we don't use many eggs. I can't use any in the baking that I sell but I could sell them locally. Or give them away?

Sadly my Hubby's family cat had to be put to sleep today. Tibsy was old and poorly and it was just too cruel to let him suffer longer. He was a gorgeous cat, happy to let the girls stroke him and cuddle him. He was a little tiger and very loved by us all. We got to say our goodbyes last night.

Sleep peacefully Tibsy, you are very missed <3

Thursday, 10 May 2012

School Desserts - Cornflake Tart Recipe

A friend and I were reminiscing recently about the desserts we used to have with our school dinners. We had fond memories of a couple of them and it became our goal to re-create them!

We started with the cornflake tart - as we remember it it was pasty, jam and cornflakes in some sort of sticky syrup.

We roughly followed this recipe here... and ended up with...

Well, ok, we ended up with 3 of these and we ate lots. Yum. It was pretty much as we remembered! We think it needs some more filling. And I need to try it with custard but it was GOOD.

Today I also spotted the google car! One of the ones that takes the photos that end up on Google streetview.

I'll have to keep an eye out on the system as I'm guessing my car will be there -down my friend's street! Hehe.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Rainbow Ripple Blanket (and some mixed musings)

I'll start with the rainbow ripple blanket because it makes me SMILE and I need to do more smiling!

9 and a half rows into one of the ripples. And I'm enjoying it. The colours make me smile and make me feel all warm and happy! The photos don't show the true colours, it's even prettier in real life.

Onto other stuff - the girls are over the worst of the pox but they are getting cabin fever. Hysterical tantrums, lots of shouting. I think they should be ok to be in public on Thursday so we might do a quick supermarket dash just to get them out a little BUT we've booked a last minute holiday for next week. Just 4 nights in a little caravan but we thought it'd be a lovely way to treat the girls after a rotten week and it'd be good for all of us to have a BREAK. I am very excited.

My Dad is ill in hospital. Quite badly ill. We've always had an odd relationship and we aren't close but it is worrying. I have visited him and will visit him again on Thursday. Positive thoughts please :D

Hubby has organised for us to go to the cinema tomorrow, a proper date <3 he booked the night off work and arranged someone to watch the girls. He is so lovely, bless his heart. He knew I wanted to see it and it ends a the cinema Thursday. I love it so much when he does things like that. We're seeing 'The Hunger Games' I hope it is as good as the book!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Wall Decals

I bought some wall decals back in December - one for Hubby for our anniversary and one just because I wanted it! I didn't get round to putting them up and I found them the other day and decided that it needed doing!

This is the one in our bedroom:

The words are lyrics from the song that we danced to for our first dance at our wedding <3

Then this is in the lounge/diner...

As you can tell some of our walls are textured with artex so it wasn't so easy getting the decals right on those ones. It didn't take me too long though! And I LOVE them. We rent and so our home is all magnolia and we aren't really supposed to paint it so this is a nice way for us to personalise the walls without too much effort.

I bought the decals from ebay, there are loads on there and very reasonably priced too!

Ellie had a really bad day with the pox yesterday but she seems to be over the worst and is a lot happier today, phew!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Homemade Beefburgers

Today has been a long day. These burgers were the highlight of it (yes it was that bad!).

Recipe from here on Tesco's recipe site. Easy to make and very quick!

The recipe made 10 medium sized ones. Unfortunately I bought HUGE rolls...

The burgers were quite chunky so could have been flatter and bigger - Hubby used cookie cutters to make his burger bun a better size...

The burgers were tasty. Lots of flavour, nice texture and really yummy. I have frozen the other 6 burgers. I'm not always a burger fan but these are FAB and would be a great way to get some veg into kids too as they have pepper and onion in them :D

Cost (just for 10 burgers):

Mince: £2.00
Pepper: £0.80
Seasonings/breadcrumbs: £0.30
Onion: £0.10

= £3.20 - BARGAIN!!

As I said, today has been long. E is completely covered in pox and is grumpy with it and she didn't really sleep last night either (so none of us did). We're all tired and grumpy and snappy and bleurgh. Our hot water and heating also stopped working, the plumber fixed it easily but it was just another grrr in a day of them! Off to bed soon as I fear it will be another long night!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Ripple Blankets and Princess Invitations

F asked for a Princess Party and so I have been racking by brains trying to come up with an original invitation idea (E had a princess 1st birthday so I'd already made wands!). In the end we went for gem rings for everyone with a tag attached with the details on.

I made the prototype this afternoon:

The string is attached to the ring. The tag was just printed on the computer and I stuck little diamant√© in the corner. I bought the rings off of ebay (about £2 for 18) and the tags too (£1.50 for 50!). Not too bad price-wise and something a bit different (I hope).

This is the start of the rainbow ripple - 6 rows in :D I'm enjoying it so far, I do love rainbow things!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

BBQ Beef Pot Roast, Rainbows, Migraines and Chicken Pox...

Well that was a title and a half!

I woke up this morning with a migraine. One where the light hurt and moving my head was agony. I've spent most of the day in bed trying not to move. The pain has eased a bit so I'm laying on the sofa instead. I hate days like this, I feel like I've had time stolen from me as I had lots planned for today. It's been 5 months since my last migraine - and that was before my eye surgery.

F has chicken pox. Neither of the girls have had it before. It's not bothering her yet, I think not getting to go to nursery will bother her far more than the spots. She loves nursery! I hope E gets it soon, it's F's birthday party in a month and I need them both to be fine!

Now... onto rainbows...

I promised the girls a rainbow blanket each a while back and am now getting started using these colours - the photo doesn't show the true colours very well, for example the 4th from the left is actually an orangey pink, far more orange than the photo shows! I'm going to crochet their blankets in a ripple pattern and am going to make both alongside one another so that they are both finished at the same time. I'm quite excited about making them although they are going to be very big (40 inches wide) so it may be some time before I'm finished.

And BBQ beef pot roast... I found this recipe. We only used 600g of meat though. I didn't make it - Hubby did as I was in bed. It tasted nice. Ellie ate more of the meat than anyone else and she really enjoyed it! I'm not a fan of beef unless it is in a burger or mince but this was ok, tender and quite nice.